Chapter 1

A Daft Outing

 

"Ouch!" Rosie stopped und looked down. "I’ve bumped my foot again. When are we back home? I can’t go on!"

Bertha rolled her eyes and replied: "How often am I to tell you, I don’t know. You should have put on sturdy shoes, but nobody listens to me!"

Rosie closed her lips tightly and pondered. Then she suddenly remembered that she still had a rest of the chocolate her mother had given her. Happily she thrust her hand into her trouser pocket and felt something warm, mushy. The chocolate had melted.

"No, that can’t be true. We all will starve!" she lamented.

"What is it now?" Bertha asked and looked at Rosie. When she saw Rosie’s brown fingers with the rest of the chocolate paper she snapped: "Well, I do not really want to know, and if so it will not hurt you to lose some weight. But you don’t listen, whatever I tell you."

"Now stop quarrelling, you two", Elfrida said. "Spare your breath for the rest of the way. We’ll soon have made it."

“What does the map say, Jenny?” Elfrida interrupted Rosie’s thoughts.

“Let’s see”, Jenny replied and looked the map up and down. “We must be close to the old mine. It’s two kilometres from there.”

“Two kilometres! Gosh, that’s a long way”, Mary said. “Daisy, didn’t you take along your parents’ mobile? You could ring up Elfrida’s daddy.”

“No, I haven’t, but what I have is a blister at my left heel. Let’s have a break.”

“Yes, let’s sit in the grass over there”, Elfrida nodded. “That looks nice.”

With a loud sigh and an even louder thud Rosie sat down in the grass and so did her friends. None of them wanted to walk further.

Their feet hurt, they were hungry and grew more and more tired. The air was mild, and the choppy wind which had fronted them finally died down. Some birds were twittering and all around them it was very peaceful. Susie got out some biscuits and handed them around. They soon were finished. The hunger after all was a little better and the friends settled down cosily.

It did not take long and one after the other fell asleep. Except Rosie. Her feet were still aching badly and moreover she was busy turning her trouser pocket and sucking up the rests of the chocolate. It was not very delicious because poor Rose always got fluffs in her mouth. When the sticky chocolate was sucked up as far as possible, she lay down exhaustedly beside Bertha.

Bertha and Rosie

 

Rosie would have liked very much to sleep but she still felt the fluffs of the trouser pocket in her mouth. If only she were back home with her Mummy. Rosie thought of all those wonderful meals her mother cooked. O, if there were ham-potatoes with vanilla dressing! Perhaps she even would give some of it to her little brother. She thought of her little brother Alphonse.

Alphonse could not walk or talk – he was good for nothing. He slobbered all the day long and was noisy. Rosie never understood why all the aunts, grannies and the friends of her mother made such a fuss about that little napkin-stinker: Alphonse, look at – Alphonse, say Mummy – Say Aunt Agatha – Say Granny Elsie – Alphonse, do burp - O, how twee!

One day Rosie’s time of revenge had come. They had finally all left and Rosie’s mother had laid down on the sofa to brace up for her favourite business: cleaning the house. Softly Rosie crept to her brother. He lay innocently in his small bed and babbled gibberish. Now and then he lost his dummy but every time he got it back.

Rosie shut the door of the room she shared with him. She took a long rubber band and fastened it to the bookshelf over Alphonse’s bed. The other end she knotted to the dummy so that the rubber band was taut. Then Rosie sat down on her bed and watched how Alphonse again started with his babbling, opening his mouth a little. The dummy shot out! Alphonse immediately began to wail, but Rosie leafed through one of her books while her little brother clawed for his dummy. After some minutes he caught it. Unused to such effort, Alphonse closed his eyes to sleep but the dummy shot out of his mouth and the game began at the beginning.

Fascinated, Rosie watched how her little brother fell asleep again and again. The dummy shot out again and again and was reconquered again and again. In the meantime, Rosie could hear her mother hoovering at the floor below. Fine, for when Mrs. Pigjaw started hoovering it would take a while. Cleanliness was the most important thing for mother pig after all. Pigs are much better than their reputation. Rosie got herself a chocolate bar and watched the proceedings of little Alphonse joyfully.

“What are the odds that you will be quiet tonight, my little darling?” Jeeringly Rosie watched Alphonse fishing for his dummy. “What are the odds that you’ll never again sleep as well as tonight? Quite stressing, fishing for a dummy, isn’t it? I will listen to some tapes this evening. Don’t worry, you may listen, too, I’ll turn it a bit louder for you.”

Thus she went on for a while, until suddenly her mother called: “Rosie!”

Just at that moment the dummy shot out of the mouth again and Alphonse wailed. “Rosie, what are you doing to poor Alphonse?”

Quickly Rosie jumped from her bed, ran to the door and opened it.

“Nothing, Mummy, I just showed him a few pictures in my Barbie-book. Your shouting frightened him! Pity, Mummy, he had almost fallen asleep, poor boy!”

Mrs. Pigjaw had been halfway up the stairs but stopped now and whispered:

“O, I’m so sorry, Rosie-dear. I have to go shopping once more. Probably I’ll look in at Mrs. Poobird. Shall I buy something nice for you? Such a good babysitter earns a reward.”

Rosie thought that over. “Well, a box of chocolates wouldn’t be bad, a small one.”

Mrs. Pigjaw laughed softly.

“Well, I think I’ll find a small one. See you!” And finally she walked down the stairs.

In a flash Rosie was back on her bed and looked out of the window. He mother left. Umph, that had been a near thing. If Mummy was going to the silly Poobird-woman, that gossipy old hen, it would take lots of time until she was back home. She looked at her brother who had finally fallen asleep without his dummy.

Eh, that won’t work, my little darling, now it’s lessons! Every pupil not paying attention gets a wet washrag into his face. Nobody likes that, would you? Do think I love to do it?”

After Rosie came back from the bathroom with a wet washrag, it was also Alphonse’s time to wake up, and small children do not hold much with cold water.

“Why are you crying, my little one? Listen now, we’ll learn how to talk, so attend to me: Gran Elsie is stupid. Gran Elsie is stupid. Agatha stinks. Agatha stinks. – That’s easy, so let’s begin once more…”

And so Rosie spent her time, revenging every single nightly disturbance. She, after all, thought it to be mean that the little Pampers-stinker was allowed to be noisy at night and sleep during the day. O, if he could talk a little – at the best those words Rosie had taught him. Only when the whole family was together of course and they all could see what a mean lad sweet little Alphonse was. Would Gran Elsie and Aunt Agatha come again at all? Hopefully not, for both had given Rosie nothing but useless stuff. Copybooks and crayons, who needed that? Nice things like a bar of chocolate they never had given to her, quite aside and… Eh, why was her face suddenly wet? Had Alphonse the washrag…?

Rosie wiped her face and slowly it dawned to her that she had fallen asleep. Beside her Bertha sulked, collecting her things: “Darn it, they said the weather would be fine, but no! I think if I worked with the weather forecast…”

“Don’t talk that much, do help Rosie. She will not get awake!” Elfrida hurried them for the rain poured down. In that turmoil everybody tried to get his own things to quickly find protection under a nearby tree. When finally they were there, Jenny suddenly cried: “O dam', we’re under a tree!”

“So what? It doesn’t matter if it’s a tree or a grocer’s if only my pretty dress doesn’t get wet!” Bertha snapped.

Elfrida glared at her.

“Okay, your business if you want to get roasted, but have you seen the lightning over there?”

Bertha squinted and looked ahead.

“And you think that can harm us? This is a beech tree. Flee the oak tree, seek the beech is the saying. And that’s because beeches have very flat roots.”

Jenny rolled her eyes and explained: “Everybody knows or should know that high trees attract lightning. It doesn’t matter whether oak tree or beech. It’s a matter of water content, that attracts lightning! By the way, beeches have tap roots and they are not flat.”

 

Bertha looked embarrassed and mumbled that she knew, of course, but just had forgotten.

“Shall we talk that over all the day”, Bernie asked, “or shall we run to the old mine? For sure we can take shelter there.”

 

For a moment Elfrida and Daisy looked at each other. Then they nodded and started to run. The wind lashed and the rain poured down while the thunder grew louder and louder. They raced over the stony path, taking care anyhow not to fall down on the slippery ground. Bernie heard a bump and saw Bertha tumble down.

“My pretty dress, o my, how do I look! I can’t walk on that way!” Bernie stopped.

“Does your Ladyship wish for a general check-up? Please follow me to my repair workshop in the old mine!”

He stretched out his hand but Bertha did not want any help. Angrily she scrambled to her short pig legs but the next moment she was down again. This time she accepted Bernie’s help. By now the old mine came into sight. Dark and sinister it looked, while the thunder grew louder and the lightning more violent.